Posts made in March, 2016

Sherman Sage

Sherman Sage was born about 1844 near the Platte Rivers in Nebraska to the Long Leg band of the Northern Arapaho. At his birth, his Uncle named him Sage in honor of the time he had killed a man in a large sagebrush. Sage witnessed many key events of the Plains history. He attended the first and second Laramie treaty talks, experienced the birth of the gold rush in Denver, served as a scout for General Crook and met Wovoka, prophet of the Ghost Dance movement on behalf of his tribe. He was an advocate for education and expressed regret that the lawlessness of Denver caused him to be pulled out of the non-Indian schools when he was young. He also believed in preserving the Arapaho culture in the written word and, in this role, helped Alfred Kroeber and James Mooney record our customs and stories. On July 16, 1914, Sherman Sage was one of two Arapaho elders invited on a two-week pack trip above Estes Park. It was a naming expedition funded by the Colorado Mountain Club to help persuade Congress to establish the area as a national park by assigning Indian names to important land features. This area now is the Rocky Mountain National Park and many of the Arapaho names from this trip are used to this day. In his late 90’s, Sherman Sage continued his role as tribal historian by being one of the main informants for Mary Inez Hilger. Her book, “Arapaho Child Life and Its Cultural Background”, has successfully preserved much of our tribe’s past and our ancestors’ voice. Sage did not shun from sharing how hard daily life was. “People rose early in those old days. They couldn’t afford to sleep late. They had to be on the alert all the time. They had to look out for the enemy; bring in their horses, carry in water. Everyone would have had breakfast and then only the sun would be coming up.” Even though he is still known as Old Man Sage, he had several Indian names. After his nephew took his name, Sage, during a lodge dance, he assumed the name of his Grandfather, Good-To-Look-At. After another young man acquired this name, Sage then took the name Old-Owl after his mother’s father. It was common practice to take the name of someone you respect and for that person to assume another name. Sherman Sage was well respected by the Northern Arapaho and his memory lives on in the books he helped to bring about on our culture and customs. He attributed it to his mother’s advice. “Now look at your father here. He is brave, truthful, kind to everybody. Do as your...

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Chief Black Bear, Battle of Tongue River

Chief Black Bear played a prominent role in the Indian Wars in Wyoming even though he attempted for most his time as leader to find peace with the non-Indians. After the Colorado militia attacked a peaceful village of Cheyenne and Arapaho in the Sand Creek Massacre on November 1864, Black Bear moved his lodges from Colorado to what he felt would be a safer place in Medicine Bow. The next May, official reports from Lt. Col. W. O. Collins reported that the 3,000 Northern Arapaho gathering in the area appeared to be peaceful and allowed soldiers to pass through the area without harassment. Collins was concerned that hostile Cheyenne and Southern Arapahos would be a bad influence on the Northern bands. There were also smaller groups of Northern Arapaho warriors marauding against the non-Indians against their leaders wishes. But it was the Powder River campaign to subdue the Platte River Indians that nearly proved Black Bear’s undoing not other Indians. Circular No. 11 distributed in Ft. Laramie, stated that parleys with Indians would no longer be held with the Indians because they must first be severely chastised. It was because of the charge that the Platte River Indians had massacred “our men, women and children; burned stolen, and otherwise destroyed our property; and committed outrages upon innocent women, which sicken the soul and crush the pleadings of mercy.” In the summer of 1865, General Patrick E. Connor carried out his mission and the major attack of his campaign occurred on August 29, 1865. By late summer, Black Bear and Chief Old David had brought 250 lodges to a remote camp in the Tongue River country. They did not believe a Cheyenne, his wife, and son who rushed into camp warning them of an approaching column of soldiers. But when an Arapaho on a fast horse rode into camp with the same news, the camp was thrown into a state of panic. By the time they saw the soldiers advancing less than a mile away, the women and children had no way to escape and many hid in the underbrush along the river and waited. Other Arapaho women mounted horses and were ready to leave but never made it. General Patrick E. Connor marched on their camp with 400 men and two pieces of heavy artillery. The camp was in a state of panic as the warriors fought and the women and children fled. The soldiers captured over one thousand horses and the Pawnee scouts with them plundered the village. The soldiers destroyed 250 lodges and burned the buffalo robes and dried meat, cremating their dead in the piers of fire so the Arapaho would not come back to maim their...

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Medicine Man, Head Chief of the Northern Arapaho

  Medicine Man was the chief of the Long Legs band and the head chief of the Northern Arapaho during a crucial time in our period during the 1860’s. As leader, he had great influence over the tribe and determined that peace with the white man was our best option. “So far as we Arapahoes are concerned, we are like the ants. There are a lot of us, but the white men are like the blades of grass on the prairie. We would have no chance if we started to fight them.” Medicine Man attempted for years to secure a reservation for the Arapaho without success. He petitioned Colorado Governor John Evans and other officials to establish a home for the Northern Arapaho in the Cache la Poudre area. On November 29, 1864, hope for a reservation was crushed after the brutal attack by the Colorado Militia on a peaceful village of Cheyenne and Arapaho. Many Northern Arapaho, mainly women and children, lost their lives in the incident now known as the Sand Creek Massacre. By 1865, Medicine Man led his nomadic small band to the Sweetwater River area. They ranged north to the Big Horns, west to the Rockies, east to the Black Hills and south to the Cache la Poudre following the trail of the bison. When the chief learned of the Wagon Box fight in 1867, he appointed a crier to announce the facts to the camp with words of peace… “The Arapaho are a peaceful people and want to keep their treaties. Don’t do like our friend Red Cloud. Keep out of these fights and always be friendly with the white people.” Under his leadership, the Northern Arapaho did not become “stay around the fort Indians” and continued to hunt. In 1868, sixty-nine lodges of the Long Leg band brought in 2,000 buffalo robes to Ft. Fetterman for trade. They also received trading credit for army horses that they returned. Medicine Man continued to lead his tribe in a search for a home to call their own and this led them to the Wind River area with Black Bear and Friday. Although they did not fight the non-Indians, they continued their raids against the Shoshone and Crow tribes, stealing horses and claiming their hunting territory. In 1871, Medicine Man died after eating bad rations at Ft. Fetterman. He never did accomplish his goal but he helped to guide the Northern Arapaho on their journey during a time when a strong leader was...

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Friday, the Arapaho Interpreter

His Arapaho name was “The Man Who Sits Thinking” but he was better known as Friday, the adopted son of Thomas Fitzpatrick. In 1831, he had been found wandering the prairies by Fitzpatrick on a Friday, hence his name. The mountain man took the boy back to St. Louis with him and sent him to school for two years. Friday stayed another five years before returning to his people and the Arapaho way of life. As a result of his education, Friday was the main interpreter for councils and meetings with non-Indians from 1850 until his death. He brought back useful knowledge to the Arapaho elders and proved that you can go to school but not lose the Arapaho way. By the 1860’s, Friday was a leader of his own band. He wanted to live on the Cache la Poudre in Colorado as his permanent home and spent most of his time there. However, his efforts failed to secure a reservation in his chosen area. In 1875, he served as the interpreter for Black Coal and Little Wolf when they testified that they had been given spoiled food and blankets too short for issue from the Red Cloud Agency. The Northern Arapaho had by now been reduced to poverty and their numbers depleted. In 1876, to show their good faith to their non-Indian allies, Friday joined other Arapaho as a scout for General George Cook in a campaign against their Sioux and Cheyenne allies. They did not want drawn into the Sioux war and agreed to help bring them back to their reservation. After the war ended, the Arapahoes accepted rations with the Sioux at the Red Cloud Agency but by 1878, began again to seek a reservation of their own. Friday was among the first delegation sent to Wind River to negotiate with the Shoshoni tribe’s Chief Washakie. Friday, as interpreter for the Arapaho, told the agents that the tribe no longer wanted to suffer the abuse of the Sioux and wanted a reservation of their own where they could learn to farm. They were instead sent to live with the Shoshoni although neither tribe wanted to share a reservation. On May 13, 1881, Friday died on the Wind River Reservation of a heart aliment. He was never a head chief but was known as a peace chief who sought a harmonious relationship with the...

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